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May 2020

Lamb Update

Last month saw the birth of the first spring lambs of the year in the Rancho Mirage/Palm Desert herd as many of these ewes gave birth last fall. There are a number of pregnant ewes that we expect to give birth soon so we’re following them closely. Unfortunately, we don’t have as promising news for the Palm Springs herd. We haven’t seen very many lambs there lately. There are still a number of lambs alive in the La Quinta herd, but several are sick. So, we’ll keep you posted as we continue to monitor lamb status in our study area.

Sheep Mortalities

The month of May saw two known bighorn deaths. An adult bighorn was hit and killed on Hwy 74 south of Palm Desert. Highway 74 is a dangerous road for cars let alone sheep. Fortunately, last year we saw a decrease in bighorn deaths from auto collisions, hopefully due in part to better signage. Please be careful driving this road and look out for sheep.

The second death was a lamb at PGA West golf course in La Quinta. We’re waiting for lab results from the necropsy, but a number of sheep have been showing signs of illness in this herd. Unfortunately, with COVID-19 the fence planning and construction in La Quinta hasn’t been able to progress as planned, but we’re hopeful it will continue soon.

Waterhole Count Volunteers Wanted

We’re gearing up for our annual waterhole count in early July and are looking for a few local volunteers to brave the desert heat by sitting on waterholes for a couple of days and helping us count sheep. If you’d like more information, please call 760-346-7334 or email

How Do They Do It?

Ever wonder how bighorn sheep survive the summer heat? They have several amazing adaptations. Most animals can’t lose 10% of their body weight in fluid before dehydration begins, but desert bighorn can lose up to 30% of their fluid weight and still survive. Their kidneys are specially adapted to efficiently conserve water and they excrete a small pile of pellets as waste. They’re able to get moisture from vegetation, especially during droughts. Even though the sheep have sweat glands, only a small amount of heat is actually lost from sweating. Remarkably, they can go up to 3 days in 100 degree temperatures without drinking water! Their coats are tan colored so reflect some of the sun’s rays to keep them cooler. They also have some behaviors that help them thrive in the heat such as bedding in the shade during the heat of day. Pretty much the only thing we humans can emulate is seeking shade. We guzzle water when we hike, sweat like crazy and can get dehydrated within hours. Doesn’t this make you feel sheepish? Sorry, we may have been out of contact with other people too long.

Bighorn Presentation

In mid-May, the Rancho Mirage Library emailed out a bighorn presentation we gave a couple of years ago. It’s an educational 45-minute talk if you’ve got the time to spare and would like to learn more about our local endangered sheep. Just click on the picture to watch.

In adapting to the times, we’re giving a Zoom presentation to a group in June. So, until we’re able to gather in larger groups, if you’d like a virtual bighorn presentation for your group, just give us a call at (760) 346-7334 or email us at

Seeing Sheep?

With more people than ever out hiking the hills with our “stay at home” orders, surely some of you are seeing sheep. Did you know that you can help the Institute keep track of the Peninsular bighorn sheep, their lambs and overall health of the herds? This citizen science is easy and it’s free! Just log your sheep sightings in our Bighorn Institute project on iNaturalist. For instructions on using iNaturalist app, visit our website:


Need a unique gift or just want to support the sheep? You can Adopt-a-Bighorn. Lambs are $100 and a ewe or ram is $150 each. Adoptions include a certificate, a 4x6 color photograph of your sheep, a bighorn sheep fact sheet, a year’s subscription to our e-newsletter, and a year’s membership with the Institute. All adoptions are 100% tax-deductible! Visit our website to adopt-a-bighorn:

Wish List

Golf Cart – we use electric carts to get around our 300 acre property to minimize disturbance to the sheep

Field receiver - $1,000 – allows us to track the radio-collared bighorn sheep

Gift cards: Amazon, Staples, gas cards (Shell, Mobile, Chevron, Tower Mart)

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